In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section India-Pakistan Wars

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Anthologies
  • Sources
  • Published Documents
  • Websites
  • Journals
  • Autobiographies
  • Regimental History
  • Official History
  • Armed Forces
  • Armies
  • Air Forces
  • Navies
  • Civil-Military Relations
  • Military-Industrial Complex
  • First India-Pakistan War (1947–1948)
  • Second India-Pakistan War (1965)
  • Muktibahini
  • Third India-Pakistan War (1971)
  • Kargil or the Fourth India-Pakistan War (1999)
  • The Nuclear Stand Off
  • ISI and Low Intensity War
  • Doctrines and Force Structures in the New Millennium

Military History India-Pakistan Wars
Kaushik Roy
  • LAST REVIEWED: 19 July 2023
  • LAST MODIFIED: 27 March 2014
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199791279-0145


India and Pakistan came into existence simultaneously in August 1947 as the British withdrew from the subcontinent. From their very birth until the present day, the relationship between these two countries remains troublesome. The principal arena over which Delhi and Islamabad continue to clash is Kashmir. While the two-nation theory of Pakistan demands that Kashmir as a Muslim majority province must become an integral part of Pakistan, the liberal secular ideology of India demands that retention of Kashmir is necessary for maintaining the multireligious and multiethnic character of India. These two countries have fought four wars (1947–1948, 1965, 1971, and 1999). The last war, named the Kargil War, was fought at a time when both countries possessed nuclear weapons. And in between the wars, Pakistan conducted guerrilla war against India in Kashmir. In the new millennium, both these countries maintain an eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation. During the first two wars, both India and Pakistan were influenced by British doctrine and weapons. From 1964 onward, Pakistan started acquiring US weapons and war fighting concepts. And this process still continues. From 1970 until the breakup of the USSR, Soviet weaponry and combat concepts shaped the Indian military. However, in the new millennium, the nuclear weapons–equipped Indian armed forces are slowly but steadily moving toward the US paradigm of war. The sections below give an overview of strategic, tactical, political, and diplomatic aspects of the India-Pakistan confrontations.

General Overviews

The legacies of British tactics and training on the Indian and Pakistani war machines are overemphasized by Barua 2005. Johnson 2006 shows the interconnections between the sub-conventional conflicts and the conventional conflicts which ranged from the rainforest of Burma, the paddy fields of East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) to the arid zones of Waziristan. The cornerstone of India-Pakistan relationship remains Kashmir. Ganguly 2002 notes that distinct ideological commitments of the Indian and Pakistani strategic managers and state-building enterprise in both these countries results in continuous clashes over Kashmir. Cohen 2005 charts how Punjabization and Islamization of the Pakistani state apparatus resulted in overemphasis on security aspects and militarization of its foreign policy. Cohen 2003 notes that the Indian Army, though dependent on the Sikhs, is broad-based in terms of recruitment and is loyal to the political establishment. Roy 2009 notes that India’s unending conflict with Pakistan is “limited” in its nature. While the Indian military officers consider Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first Prime Minister (1947–1964), an idealist, his Marxist detractors portray him as an aggressive bourgeois leader. Raghavan 2010 shows that Nehru was a liberal-realist who cut his clothes in accordance with the changing circumstances and economic realities. Nehru favored coercive rather than controlling strategy. Toward Pakistan and China, Nehru’s coercive strategic policy shifted between deterrence to compellance in accordance with the changing circumstances. In an analysis of the four India-Pakistan wars, Kasturi 2007 shows that Indian and Pakistani commanders commanded well at the battalion and brigade levels but failed to coordinate action at the corps and army levels.

  • Barua, Pradeep P. The State at War in South Asia. Lincoln and London: University of Nebraska Press, 2005.

    A narrative overview of 2,500 years of warfare in South Asia. For the recent period, Barua hints at British techniques shaping the dynamics of Indian and Pakistani armed forces.

  • Cohen, Stephen P. India: Emerging Power. Reprint. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2003.

    DOI: 10.4324/9780203009888.ch3

    Cohen notes the growing strength of India’s politico-military power. But the potential pitfalls for the nation in the new millennium are also pointed out. Originally published in 2001.

  • Cohen, Stephen P.. The Idea of Pakistan. Reprint. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2005.

    The best one-volume analysis of militarization of Pakistan and its effect on foreign and defense policies from its birth until the present. Originally published in 2004.

  • Ganguly, Sumit. Conflict Unending: India-Pakistan Tensions since 1947. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2002.

    The handy up-to-date account of the tension-filled India-Pakistan relationship from 1947 to the post-Kargil (1999) era.

  • Johnson, Rob. A Region in Turmoil: South Asian Conflicts since 1947. New Delhi: Viva, 2006.

    An excellent overview of the various conventional and unconventional conflicts in the different countries of the Indian subcontinent.

  • Kasturi, Bhashyam. “The State of War with Pakistan” In A Military History of India and South Asia: From the East India Company to the Nuclear Era. Edited by Daniel P. Marston and Chandar S. Sundaram, 139–156. Westport, CT: Praeger, 2007.

    A good synoptic overview of the four wars between India and Pakistan.

  • Raghavan, Srinath. War and Peace in Modern India: A Strategic History of the Nehru Years. Ranikhet, India: Permanent Black, 2010.

    An Indian military officer turned scholar provides the best account of Jawaharlal Nehru’s grand strategy. This monograph is especially good on political aspects and diplomatic niceties of Nehruvian statecraft.

  • Roy, Kaushik. The Oxford Companion to Modern Warfare in India: From the Eighteenth Century to Present Times. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2009.

    The author traces the dynamics of conflict in South Asia and argues that India-Pakistan conflicts had remained limited in objectives, scope, and lethality.

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